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Health Benefits of Gardening for Older Adults

For some, there is nothing more refreshing than sinking their fingers into warm soil or biting into a sun-ripened tomato fresh off the vine. There is a basic human feeling when planting seeds or bulbs — a sense of accomplishment and a state of deep peace. However, gardening not only feels good, but it is also good for you. In addition to growing nutritious fruits and vegetables, here are some of the other health benefits of gardening.

Stress-Reliever

Gardening is a great way to relax. When asked to either garden or read for 30 minutes after doing a stressful task, those who gardened were in a better mood and less stressed. Those who read were also less stressed, but their mood got worse.

Good Exercise

Did you know gardening activities, such as digging and weeding, could count toward your recommended weekly exercise? In a study on aging, gardeners reported better balance and speed, though more research needs to be done to see what exact benefits gardening brings.

Social Butterflies

Gardens have a seemingly magical power to bring people together, whether for planting, weeding, watering or just relaxing under the trees. You and your loved one could go to your local government to start a community garden. There are garden societies that you can join, as well. Garden societies hold meetings, share knowledge, create events to promote gardening (including plant sales) and volunteer to beautify their communities.

Gardening and Aging

Aging and the repetitive movements involved in gardening can make it difficult to enjoy all of the benefits. However, there are numerous ways to remain active in gardening without pain or discomfort.

  • Take breaks. It may be tempting to check off all the tasks on your garden to-do list, but overtaxing yourself could lead to injuries. Don’t try to do everything in one day.
  • Build raised garden beds. Hardware stores and garden centers sell kits that can bring your garden up from the ground, so you don’t need to kneel. You can customize the height of raised beds for your comfort.
  • Get some garden gadgets. There is an array of assistive devices for gardeners, such as a kneeler with grab bars, long-handled or extendable tools, and arthritis-friendly hand tools. Specialized garden tools lessen physical strain, which makes gardening unpleasant.

Here are some extra tips from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Gardening is an excellent meaningful activity for older adults because it brings joy and purpose into their lives. So, what are you waiting for? Grab some dirt and seeds and help your loved one grow healthier and happier.


Editor’s note: This article was originally published April 26, 2016. It has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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